The iconic “Wolf” guitar that helped define the sound of the Grateful Death has been auctioned for several millions of dollars. The guitar belonged to the band’s singer, songwriter, and guitarist Jerry Garcia, probably the most known member of the group. Jerry’s guitars were widely known, as much as his guitar playing abilities that helped define the sound of the band. Creating the amazing blend of folk, psychedelic, and classic rock.
The selling of the guitar was made to support a good cause and to help change society positively. Something that Jerry would’ve loved probably. Also, the guitar broke some records regarding rock memorabilia and legendary guitars.
Garcia’s big bad wolf?
The guitar its a costume made model, developed by the luthier Doug Irwin, especially for Garcia. The instrument got its legendary name and looks after an evil cartoon sticker was put on it as a joke. When the instrument went back to its creator for repairs, he decided to incorporate the motif in a more permanent way.
The “Wolf” first appeared in 1973, in a New York performance that the Grateful Dead gave for the Hells Angels. Devoted Deadheads identify five classic and legendary guitars which Garcia played at different times: Alligator, Rosebud, Lightning Bolt, Tiger, and Wolf. The last two were auctioned together in 2002 and made more than $1.5m. They form a key part of Rock & Roll history since they help define a moment of it.
Auctioning the wolf
The guitar was previously owned by devoted Deadhead Daniel Pritzker. A philanthropist, musician, and film director who bought the instrument in 2002 for $790,000. After several legal fights between luthier Irwin and the band members, Irwin reclaimed the “Wolf” years after Garcia’s 1995 death. Then he decided to sell it, where Pritzker got the instrument at a May event held at Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl. This time Pritzker, heir to the Hyatt Hotels and lead guitarist for the rock blues band Sonia Dada, decided to auction the guitar. To raise money for the Southern Poverty Law Centre. An Alabama-based group that wages legal battles against white supremacists and other hate groups.
The auction came after the SPLC documented an alarming rise in hate crime, especially targeting Muslims and immigrants. More since Donald Trump began his presidential campaign. Pritzker said: “I’ve been a fan of The Dead since I was a kid, and playing this iconic guitar over the past 15 years has been a privilege. But the time is right for Wolf to do some good”.
Why is the guitar so important?
The wolf was for sure one of Gracia’s favorite guitars. The guitar, along with his skills, helped him create classic songs like “Bertha,” “Fire On The Mountain,” and “Scarlet Begonias”. The custom feature helped to add that unique and electric touch to the band. Which fused elements of rock, psychedelia, experimental music, modal jazz, country, folk, bluegrass, blues, reggae, and space rock, for live performances of lengthy instrumental jams.
The iconic band and its lineup, originally performed under the name ‘The Warlocks’ in the beginning and was associated with San Francisco. The group actually started in Palo Alto and performed its first show at a pizza parlor in Menlo Park on May 5, 1965.
In 2016, the four remaining members of the Grateful Dead were reunited for what was billed as their final concerts together. Celebrating their 50 year anniversary and pay tribute to their fallen bandmates. Such as the notorious Jerry Garcia. Deadheads leaped at the chance to see the Grateful alum, along with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio and other musicians, perform in concert.
So, Where’s The Wolf Now?
The new owner is Brian Halligan, the CEO, and co-founder of marketing firm HubSpot. As he said, “I don’t plan on selling it or trading it, and so it’s somewhat priceless”. He also is a die hard fan of The Grateful Dead. As an entrepreneur, Halligan co-wrote a book on the Dead’s lessons for marketing. Since it wasn’t just a band, it was a brand.
He got the “Wolf” for $1.9 million and had his $1.6m pre-premium bid matched by an anonymous charity. Giving the nonprofit Organization, that also provides sexual orientation help to low-income áreas around the USA, an amount of $3.2 million. Making it the third-most expensive guitar ever sold. With a cost about twice as much as the previous #3, the Fender Stratocaster that Bob Dylan famously played at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. The only guitars that have sold for more money are John Lennon’s 1962 Gibson Acoustic-Electric and a Fender Stratocaster signed by a huge list of iconic guitar heroes.